It’s Time to Bring Back Victory Gardens

Let's bring back victory gardens

During the first and second world wars, many countries encouraged their citizens to grow gardens, often called “Victory Gardens.” This relieved some of the burden on the public food supply and was marketed as a way to help the war efforts. In fact, some sources report that 41% of the food consumed during these times was grown in these home gardens.

Vacant lots and public parks became fields of vegetables and many people grew gardens in their front yards or on rooftops.

The New Battle

Thankfully, we don’t currently face a world war (and hopefully won’t ever again), yet today, we fight a much different type of battle, but one that is claiming many lives and is now attacking our children as well.

This enemy is one we willingly let in and it attacks us from the inside out.

Of course, I’m talking about our food supply and the current state of health in our country. We aren’t facing an enemy armed with rifles, but a much smaller invader that we often willingly consume and feed our children.

Much of our food is a source of inflammatory substances like polyunsaturated oils, sugar and processed grains. We consume sugar to the tune of over 100 pounds per person per year and recent studies show that many of us are lacking in the basic vitamins and minerals we need for basic health.

Most sources agree that the majority of us are not consuming enough vegetables and fruits. In fact, the CDC reported that only 27% of us are consuming the recommended amount of vegetables per day (and many experts claim that the recommended amounts are lower than they should be anyway!)

Rising Food Prices

Another problem we face is rising food costs. Prices are rising on all types of foods, and organic vegetables and fruits are often especially pricey. In fact, even in the comments on this blog, the most common reason cited for not eating enough vegetables or choosing organic options is the prohibitive cost.

Sadly, this problem doesn’t seem likely to get better any time soon. Food prices are expected to continue to rise in the coming years and choosing organic produce will only get more difficult.

A Solution To Both Problems

I’ve said before that there is much wisdom we can learn from older generations, and their victory gardens are no exception. Though about 40% of US households grow gardens of some kind (according to 2008 data), increasing this number could address both rising food costs and increasing health issues.

Having a garden provides other benefits as well!

Statistically, gardeners live longer and there are many potential reasons for this. They spend more time outside, getting natural Vitamin D and coming in contact with the earth. Dirt has benefits of its own and the simple act of getting our hands dirty can provide immune benefits. Many people also report stress relief and better sleep from spending time outdoors gardening.

A side benefit for families is that gardening is a great activity to do together and an excellent remedy to spending too much screen time and not enough outdoor activity. How many things could be remedied if families would garden and walk/hike/play together?

Ways To Grow a Victory Garden

No matter how much (or how little) space you have, you can grow some organic vegetables. From tiny-scale gardens like sprouts and microgreens in the kitchen to a large-scale garden in the backyard, we can all grow something.

A Full Garden

Those who have enough room can grow much or all of their own food on their own property. Where we live, many people do this, and I’ve heard my in-laws talk about how they grew all of their own produce growing up. Even a 10 x 10 garden can grow a tremendous amount of food and is a great family activity.

Those without enough backyard space have gotten creative and some people are even growing beautiful front-yard vegetable gardens to make use of limited space.

New to gardening? Consider using an app (like this one) to plan and know optimal spacing and planting times for your zone.

Square Foot Garden

A highly efficient way of gardening that has gained popularity in recent years, square foot gardening allows those with small yards to produce a large amount of food.

Square foot gardens are typically raised beds that add soil on top of the existing ground and soil. They are more expensive up-front but are easy to maintain and typically produce very high yields. In fact, one small square foot garden can grow enough produce for an entire family if cared for correctly.

Square foot gardening turns the idea of traditional garden rows on its head and maximizes space by planting in one-foot square blocks.

Container Garden

Families with limited outdoor space can grow a container garden of some kind. A small planter can grow lettuce, spinach or herbs, while a larger planter box can grow a small square foot garden. Even a tiny window box on the outside of the window can contribute some greens or herbs.

Sprouts + Microgreens

Even families with absolutely no outdoor space can grow some food indoors. Foods like sprouts will grow easily in glass jars on a kitchen counter, and with a little more work, a tray of microgreens can create a lot of nutrition for a family.

I challenge you to start your own victory garden! Are you up to the challenge? What are you going to grow this year?

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Reader Comments

  1. I’ve always grown a garden and will continue. There’s nothing like home-grown! I especially like knowing where our food is coming from and what is used or not used on it. I’ll be growing lettuce, tomatoes, cukes, zukes, peas, beans, carrots, onions, garlic, potatoes, pumpkins, squash and some herbs. I love it all!

  2. Living on board a ship half the year– what gets delivered is usually inedible!

    So we LOVE sprouting! From every bean and seed we can….
    We each have our 7 jars lined up- (one for each day of the week….)

    My partner even puts them in his (home-made) meusli in the morning!

    We also depend on herbs– herbs like parsley, mint, basil, sage– they are very easy hearty growers!
    We eat them like vegetables but we also like them for a fresh tea. (love my tea!!)

    Would like to try growing the herbs with aquaponics! still researching this…

    If you have a space for a garden maybe planting more Perennials would be good??
    (Perennials that are suitable to your specific area of course!) grow more with less work?

    Anybody have a perennial garden??

    But if you are a lazy gardener- why not grow weeds????

    Or at least leave an area for it… A wild area will attract Birds and insects.
    It could also be fun for the kids to identify different endemic species—– or just get lost and daydream in the tangle like we did as kids!

    We are discovering more about the health properties of weeds everyday so why not try a wild garden??
    We got some tasty weeds out of ours!

    It would be nice to see the butterflies and bees flying around!

    On that note…. has anyone tried apiculture or vermiculture???

    Apicultre also looks doable and nice to have fresh LOCAL honey– better for the health for sure!

    They must sell vermiculture kitchen sets somewhere– complete with worms— where the soil can easily be collected and used… I remember seeing that somewhere. It looked fantastic!

    Unfortunately all our food waste goes into the sea..! Otherwise it gets stinky on a two week ocean crossing!

    In NY city I heard they are going to start collecting green waste… is anyone aware of this?

    In Belgium they collected food waste once or twice a week. And you could pick up a bag of fresh compost at a very nice price when you need.- —– that was 10 years ago. The US feels so far behind!


    • Gardens Alive offers some vermiculture items that look quite interesting!

    • In certain neighborhoods in NYC they do collect kitchen waste (they have little brown garbage cans)

  3. I love sprouting! We have 7 jars each, for each day of the week!

    We love it on our breakfast: homemade meusli and sweet sprouts, yum!

    We are lazy gardeners though! We grow herbs and weeds everywhere; in every space we have because they are hearty growers and you can eat them like vegetables.

    And there is nothing like a fresh herbal brew!

    If you are very Lazy what about having a wild patch of garden?
    Throw wild flower seeds everywhere. See what happens. You may get some really tasty edibles out of it.
    Or flowers that can decorate desserts or even flower tea!

    The birds and insects would appreciate this as well.
    It would be good for the kids to get lost in the wild patch and to identify different endemic species and their habits.

    It could also be a way to introduce apiculture, or vermiculture. Because kids love tiny insects!

    Making my own honey is something special that I would love to get into.
    Has anyone tried?

    Having a ‘wild area’ could work beautiful with a perennial garden as well.

    Does anyone have a perennial garden?

  4. Gardening is the beautiful activity which helps you to make busy and it benefits in your health and other benefits are through gardening.

  5. Great post. I have been trying to have a successful garden for the past 4-5 years. Unfortunately, we live in a colder climate and I find that the organic seeds I have tried, often fail. My soil is rich and I use specific flowers and herbs to try and fend away pests etc. Is there any way to do a follow up post to this and have others chime in that are from similar climates and we can share info on seeds, soil etc?

    • Re:Kristen

      I live in Nova Scotia, Canada and live in zone 6a, so it can get fairly cold in the winter. I’m not sure where you live, but I found knowing your gardening zone, and what types of plants typically do well in that zone is helpful.

      I typically start my seeds indoors in the spring under a cheep grow light. When temperatures get warmer, I gradually get my plants used to living outdoors, called “hardening off”.

      Some people in cold climates use cold frames, or hoop tunnels to get a head start, or to extend the growing season. Elliot Coleman has studied extending growing seasons and has some great books. I also enjoy Gayla Trail’s books and blog for approachable growing information.

      Also, I found that ordering seeds from local seed companies helps because the plants are adapted to your individual climate, and are more “hardy”. I hope that helps a bit! 🙂

    • Kristen, I live in a fairly cold climate, zone 4 when I’m lucky. The real key is soil fertility. Organic seeds or any seeds need relatively specific soil nutrients to thrive.
      That means, if you haven’t had a soil test done … do it ASAP!
      A wise man once said, “You can’t get to where you want to be unless you know where you are now.” In other words, you may think your soil is rich and fertile, but apparently your seeds don’t agree. Most land grant universities and many garden centers offer ways to test soil.
      BTW, I harvest over 40 full-sized cucumbers every year from a planter that is only 22 1/2 inches square. I plant four seeds on July 4th. At about 9 inches deep, there is very little soil, but it is perfectly amended.

  6. Thank you thank you thank you for writing this article!! It is very timely and it is a wonderful solution to the ever increasing prices of food in general. We could all use more encouragement 🙂

  7. There is nothing like home-grown vegetables. We can be 100% sure about the health factor than buying it from outside.

  8. I live in a small town. One of the churches here bought a home with a plot of land that goes through the middle of town. The house was falling down so they tore it down to create a wonderful community garden. It is managed not only by the congregation but also by the community. There’s no discrimination. No one’s told what to plant or how much to harvest for their own personal needs. It feeds about 60 families in the community. It is very inspiring.

  9. Thank you for this post!

  10. My friend sells all the products to create square-foot gardens. She is awesome, and she has helped me start a beautiful square foot garden! I’ve loved that there is no digging involved. It’s soooo easy, and thankfully not overwhelming like some gardening techniques are for me. You can find her at Square Foot Gardening.

    Thank you for this post. I love your blog!

  11. My family always had a large vegetable garden growing up, so when my husband and I got married, then built our house, the second thing we did was start a garden. Twelve years later were still doing it, and we hope that our new baby girl enjoys working in the dirt as she gets older as much as we do! I can, ferment, freeze and dehydrate most of or own produce, and have been working on adding fruit crops that can withstand our late frosts. We’ve found that honey berries are a winner, along with strawberries, mullberries, and blackberries. Time will tell if my Apple trees will have fruit. Thanks for the article!!!

  12. Great post! We garden every year ( : This year I have radishes, carrots, tomatoes, eggplant, kale, herbs, potatoes, strawberries, cherries, pears, lettuce and beets! yay!

  13. So far this year, we’ve got tomatoes, green beans, squash, broccoli, kale, collards and spinach growing. I started everything a little early this year, as I’m pregnant, and due late June/early July (Edd is July 11, but I always go early) and if I started everything at the normal time, most would be ripe right when I’m due. I don’t see myself picking, canning, freezing, and dehydrating at 38/39weeks or with a newborn lol I’m hoping to order some fruit and nut trees this year, should money allow. We have loads of blackberry bushes on our 50 acres plus the 200 acres we lease for hunting, so we will certainly have our stash of blackberries (and chiggers ?). I’m hoping to get a few more veggies started this year, and hopefully have a successful harvest! Last year didn’t turn out great (hubby didn’t believe me when I told him wild rabbits would devour our garden! We fenced it this year.) we filled our raised garden with organic soil and compost today for carrots, radishes and onions, as our ground is tough. I hope to get those planted this year, because last year we didn’t.

  14. We live in a Zone 3 and grow just about anything you could want in a garden, and indeed, are able to grow enough vegetables to sustain a family for most of the year. Also, we have a variety of herbs, apples, currants, raspberries, strawberries, saskatoons, sour cherries, nanking cherries,….the list goes on. Much of what we grow is suitable for a Zone 2. There really is no limit to growing — only ourselves.

  15. I love this; yes l am up too the challenge. I will let you know how I go.
    Jilly oxo

  16. I need advice/input from others because my brain isn’t very creative right now. I love to garden, both flowers & vegetables. I had a serious skiing accident Feb 1 2017, right after we moved into a new house on 1.25 acres. I dream about getting out into the yard, but cannot figure out how to! I WAS planning on putting in a huge garden, but I can’t get around without the walker or wheelchair. They will sink into the soft earth! My left leg is in a straight brace heel to hip so I can’t get down on knees like I’m used to. Brace comes off in four weeks but I will still be with walker. So how can I get out into the grass and garden? There must be a way, I just haven’t figured it out yet! I’ve been researching bees while laid up also, I would like a big patch of lavender and wildflowers with about 4-5 bee hives!

  17. This will be my second summer doing square foot gardening, and so far I love it! I’ve been able to grow watermelon, cucumber, beans, and tomatoes on trellises, and have been able to reduce my workload greatly! I used to do traditional gardening by planting in rows in the ground, spending all week doing back-breaking weeding. With square foot gardening I’ve hardly had to weed at all!! And because the boxes are raised higher, I don’t have to bend my back so much. I only have 7 boxes (4’x8′ each) and I’ve been able to grow more food than what I can keep up with, yet with way less effort!!! If anyone is considering square foot gardening…go for it! You won’t regret it! I also live in Canada in a colder climate, and I start many of my seeds indoors in March or April under fluorescent lights. I plant outside at the end of May. Box gardening allows me to easily cover my plants with frost covers or my cabbages with floating row covers to keep away the moths. Anyone who has a small yard or even just a balcony at an apartment, box gardening with trellises produces lots of food in a small space! I have 80 acres, but chose box gardening to reduce my workload and save my back. Happy gardening!